Jess leaves her nice, warm bed and watches TV while she has her breakfast. The TV is just for fun, you know? But watching it makes her feel safe and comforted, the routine of her programmes enclosing her in the soft, strong, matchless security of home. She couldn't put it this way, she just likes her programmes.
Getting ready for school is a chore. She has to be ready in time to leave, has to start remembering things the way good children remember things. She has to know where her bag is (here it is) and her shoes (under the bed) and keep her hair nice (we just brushed it!) and put her lunch in her bag (you almost forgot again!) and remember to give Miss the letter for the school trip (it's in your book bag).
Then once all this is done and in the right amount of time, home is left behind for another day.
Jess sees the other children going to school, some of them with parents, some striding out on their own, defiant and independent. Jess doesn't know they look this way, she only knows they have to walk on their own, crossing the roads her mum makes her stand next to for ages in case a car is coming.
All the while, the air cuts through her school jacket, reminding her she isn't at home, in the warm. The sight of the other children makes her think of being at school all day with these strangers who run about and shout at each other and are a part of a great, big, little world where Jess is meant to belong.
At the school gate, Jess spots Kyle and looks away quickly. Kyle likes to tease her and dance about, rushing at her as if he will knock her right over, then missing at the last moment. Jess sees his mother grabbing him by the shoulder, spinning him to face her. It looks like he's already in trouble.
Kyle turns away from his mother and sees Jess watching. For a moment that exists outside of their school day, Jess sees the way his eyes look and then he pulls a face at being watched and turns away again.
The school door, full of people going in, crowded with parents leaving with happy faces. Jess's turn to go through and say goodbye and act like this is where she wants to be when the real Jess is still at home, in the warm, with no one pushing and jostling and no one shouting too loud and filling up all the space around her that she wishes was empty and quiet.
Only seconds later and she is alone in the classroom, though it is full. The teacher is making everyone calm down and Jess turns to the front and waits to see what she should do. She will be good all day and ask when she needs to do something and keep silent when she needs to know something.
Later, when Kyle has run past her a few times there will be another moment where, without knowing exactly why, Jess leans over and gives him her spare pencil because he has broken his own. And he'll twitch his nose at her in that way he does when he's making fun of the teacher, then laugh and nibble at the pencil she gave him.
Somewhere in the confused, inexplicable day of school the quiet, get-along girl will start to understand the loud, push-away boy, even if she couldn't explain to you what it is she knows about him. And the boy will look again at the silent girl who never asks for help and wonder if it really is because she knows all the answers or if she is lost too.
Many hours go by and Jess can go home again, her whole body relieved to leave school and make her way to her safe place. A little rest (a full evening), a little sleep (a night full of dreams) and seconds later (the morning), then she will be back at school to do it all again and somehow still, even though this all happens, her teacher will say,
'Jess needs to try harder, we know she can do it. If only she would take part more in lessons. Yes, of course she has friends! She's always in a group, doing something. No, we have no bullying at this school, we have a very clear policy. Just make sure Jess understands she needs to work harder. Jess knows what she needs to do.'
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